Do you remember eLearning?
Back in 2000, the European Union launched its “eLearning action plan” to enhance the use of “technology serving lifelong learning”. By adding an ‘e’ to learning, we thought we could invent a brand new vision for learning. But it didn’t happen. Technology was simply not good enough, and our minds not ready. We ended up creating more, or less, user-friendly online training courses that were commercialised by training companies as a substitute for traditional courses. But learning remained mostly untouched, still based on a top-down relationship between teacher and learners. The classroom — even in its virtual definition — was still based on a conventional concept well described by Sir Ken Robinson in his popular TED conference.
We desperately needed a vision for the future of learning. Said another way, we had to “open up education” and get rid of the ‘e’!
A few days ago, I participated in a workshop at the DLD Festival in Tel Aviv about the “business model of online education” at the invitation of the World Economic Forum. The same day, the French Ministry of Education released the results of a survey that showed that only 5% of French students and less than 20% of their teachers knew precisely what it was about.
How can you think of a business model for MOOCs when your potential users don’t know what they are about?
The results of the first OECD Survey of Adult Skills just confirmed a trivial fact: the more and the longer you invest in education, the better trained your population is.
Italy, Spain, France and Ireland occupy the lowest ranking positions of the survey in reading and basic numeracy. Is that surprising?
A year ago, the European Commission published a report entitled Mind the Gap — education inequality across EU regions. One map – page 82 – showed that the countries that have most suffered from the financial crisis – Italy, Spain, France and Ireland — are also the ones with the lowest percentage of adults with upper secondary education.
In a period of continuous transformation and change for schools, it is worth listening to disruptive voices questioning the need and the proposed direction of change.
Last week, the European Commission launched its “Opening Up Education” initiative. (See my previous blog entry.) The final objective is to enable “all individuals to learn anywhere, anytime, through any device with the support of anyone”.
All education ministers in Europe and beyond seem to agree on the need to advance in the “digitalisation of learning” and design strategies to favour the future students’ employability. Jobs and skills are the ultimate objective, and testing is one of the key instruments to measure youth attainment and the system’s overall effectiveness. All education ministers? No! Like in Asterix, “one small village of indomitable education experts still holds out against the invaders”.
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